Friday, December 27, 2013

Updated Leader Board for 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia



Well, one new trivia fan has joined the game since my last leader board update ... and he soared straight to the top! Now, this contest is technically over because I am not posting any new questions. However, I have only posted answers for Days 1 through 16,  so if you want to take a shot at the gift cards that will go to the top three scorers, you can test your wits with the remaining entries (starting here on Day 17) and simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

As of today, the top three players are:
  1. Colin G. 
  2. Stephen B.
  3. Purehero
Thank you for playing! 

Winter Holiday Trivia: Answers Part 1



I hope you all have enjoyed my 2013 trivia event: 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia. I'm still tabulating the top scores, but in the meanwhile you can check out the answers for Days 1 through 16!


Day 1

Q: What was the project for which Vince Guaraldi originally wrote and recorded "Linus and Lucy"?

A: The song was originally composed for use on a Charles Schultz documentary called A Boy Named Charlie Brown. "Linus and Lucy" appeared on Guaraldi's 1964 album, Jazz Impressions of a Boy Named Charlie Brown, a year before it was used in the Christmas special.


Day 2

Q: What other Christmas film did It's a Wonderful Life finish ahead of in terms of 1947 box office revenues?

A: Miracle on 34th Street. Miracle placed placed 27th while Wonderful Life placed 26th in box office revenues that year. Wonderful Life made $3.3 million during its initial run.


Day 3

Q: In what country were glass Christmas ornaments first manufactured? (Bonus points if you can point to who started it and in what year).

A: Germany! (In 1847 Hans Greiner began producing glass ornaments, or Glasschmuck, in the shape of fruits and nuts. This was in the small German town of Lauscha).


Day 4

Q: What are you supposed to do after kissing under the mistletoe?

A: Pick a berry.


Day 5

Q: What is the name of the calendar introduced in the 16th century that resulted in the loss of 11 days in the calendar year and moved Christmas to December 25?

A: Gregorian Calendar. The Julian calendar was switched over to the Gregorian starting in 1582.


Day 6

Q: What was the name of MADtv's parody of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and what was the cinematic source of the parody?

A: When I originally wrote this question in the early 2000s, the parody that was in rotation was THE REINFATHER (which made liberal use of The Godfather). This is the one that always stays in my mind. However, it was one part of a trilogy. So I'll also accept RAGING RUDOLPHA PACK OF GIFTS NOW, and FULL METAL RUDOLPH (lifting from GoodfellasApocalypse Now, and Full Metal Jacket respectively) as correct answers ... if only because no one submitted REINFATHER.

Full Metal Rudolph, The Reinfather & A Pack of Gifts Now

The Reinfather Trilogy


Day 7

Q: The Welsh name for December is Rhagfyr, while the Gaelic name is An Mios marbh.
What do these names mean in English?

A: "The month of preparation" and "the dead month" (respectively).


Day 8

Q: In what country did the Advent wreath originate?

A: Germany


Day 9

Q: From where does the poinsettia hail?

A: Central America

Bonus question #1: Who is this flower named after? (A: Joseph Poinsett, US ambassador to Mexico)

Bonus question #2: What color are a poinsettia's flowers? (A: Yellow. The showy colored parts of Poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored leaves. The yellow flowers, or cyathia, are in the center.)


Day 10

Q: On what instrument did Gruber compose the melody for "Silent Night! Holy Night"?

A: Guitar


Bonus Question: Where was "Silent Night, Holy Night" first performed? (A: St. Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf)


Day 11

Q: Which one of Jesus' early miracles is also supposed to be a fortunate supernatural effect attributed to Christmas Eve?

A: Turning water into wine.


Day 12

Q: One-quarter of the globe, or 48 million square miles, is ________ covered at some time during the year. Worldwide, about one-third of the water used for irrigation comes from _______.   (Note: These values were accurate circa 1998 and I have not done any digging to update them; they may have shifted).

A: Snow


Day 13

Q: What was the pre-Christian purpose behind gift-giving around the end of the year?

A: To ensure good LUCK. (Anyone who did not give freely would be unlucky in the coming year).


Day 14

Q: When using a cookie press to make Scandinavian spritz cookies, it's important to be sure that the dough is ______?

A: Well-chilled


Day 15

Q: What is considered to be the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas?

A: Gingerbread


Day 16

Q: J.W. Parkinson did something in 1841 that forever changed Christmas, at least in the retail world. What did he do, and where did he do it?

A: He hired the first department store Santa! It was a big event at J.W. Parkinson's Dry Goods store in Philadelphia. It took another several years before the department store Santa caught on, but now we cannot imagine a store without one!

  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 25



Today is the final day of my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia. Soon, I'll be tallying the scores of trivia players and designating the three winners. Because today is likely to be very busy for many folks -- what with the unwrapping of gifts, hunting down batteries, and preparing family dinners -- I'll go a little easy on folks today. So, your question for December 25 is:
What is the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, who fills the clogs of good children with gifts and candy? Hint: "Santa Claus" is derived from mispronouncing the Dutch name. 
Bonus question: For one extra point,  what three things did Scott Calvin (played by Tim Allen) do that forced him to become Santa (in the movie, "The Santa Clause")

Go ahead and submit your answer to today's and previous questions. See the notes below for details on how to participate in my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia (and maybe win a gift card)! I'll post the answers and the winners later this week.


Contest Notes:

Remember, my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 24



Here we are on the penultimate day of my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia. It is also the last day for Christmas shopping. Oh, what am I saying? These days, one can shop on Christmas day, either online or in some physical stores!  Anyway, One holiday task that many people try to complete before tomorrow is the purchase -- and sending -- of Christmas cards.

The first Christmas card was published in the 1840s by a man who wanted to unburden the general public of the task of writing Christmas letter greetings. He thought he could take advantage of the penny post to send his creation inexpensively, but it took two decades before printing technology, specifically cheap color lithography, was sufficiently developed for Christmas cards to enter the mass market. You see, that first card cost a shilling which was roughly a full day's wages for the average worker. Way too expensive!

Since then, Christmas cards have seen many changes: they can play music, be personalized, or even virtual. But the intent is always the same: marry mass communication and art in the service of sharing seasonal greetings with friends and loved ones. Your trivia question today:
Who invented the Christmas card? 
Bonus question: In what year did he publish the first Christmas card? 

Speaking of cards ... you could win one of three gift cards if you're a high scorer in my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia. Go ahead and submit your answer to today's and previous questions. See the notes below for details on how to participate!


Contest Notes:

Remember, my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Monday, December 23, 2013

Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 23



We're getting near the end of my little trivia contest. I hope you've enjoyed this series of "25 Days" posts.

As we edge closer to Christmas Eve, I'm reminded that the story of a Divine Child lying in a manger echoes the nativity scenes from earlier traditions. What, you thought there was only one nativity in all of history? Well, ask me later about the whole host of divine beings who have been counted as world saviors down through the centuries. Anyway, your question for this, the 23rd Day of my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is:
What is the name of the Roman god whose birth from the Mother Rock was observed by nearby shepherds? 
Bonus question: Who were the primary followers of this deity's mystery religion? 


Go ahead and submit your answer to today's and previous questions. See the notes below for details on how to participate in my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia (and maybe win a gift card)!


Contest Notes:

Remember, my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 22



Although the saintly Nicholas of Myra most likely never saw or heard of the creature, reindeer have long been associated with Santa. Well, since the early 1800s at least. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, however, didn't come on the scene until 1939. That's when Robert May wrote an illustrated book for Montgomery Ward stores to hand out to children. (Johnny Marks wrote the famous song a decade later). These two sources merely state that Rudolph had a red nose and showed what happened because of that particular characteristic. Neither has any information about how Rudolph's nose got so red.

There have been several attempts at explaining Rudolph's prominent schnoz. One view is that a terrible cold caused his nose to flare up colorfully. Another, less family-friendly, story accuses Rudolph of dipping into the liquor cabinet while Santa noms on milk and cookies. Of course, some research in the late 90s uncovered a less prosaic but more convincing explanation. Your question today:
What is Norwegian scientist Odd Halvorsen's biological, and somewhat squirm-inducing, explanation for Rudolph's red nose? 
Bonus question: What is the problem with most representations of reindeer on Christmas cards?  


Do you have an answer to submit? See the notes below for details on how to participate in my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia (and maybe win a gift card)!


Contest Notes:

Remember, my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 21



Happy Solstice one and all! It's the first day of Winter to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, but it's the first day of Summer to residents of the Southern Hemisphere.

Now on to the question for Day 21.

Flame, whether in the form of the hearth fire or candles, has a long association with the cold winter days and nights. A scientist once said of flame: "You have the glittering beauty of gold and silver, and the still higher lustre of jewels, like the ruby and diamond; but none of these rival the brilliancy and beauty of flame."

Now, you might think it odd that I invoke a scientist when discussing a spiritual observance. However, I do not believe that the "materialist insights" of science can destroy wonder or cheapen awe in natural phenomenon. In fact, I believe the opposite is true. And, as far as I can tell, the scientist I quoted felt likewise. He founded the Christmas Lectures at Royal Institution in London in the mid 1820s. The Lectures' purpose was to enlighten children and encourage them to pursue the sciences. He believed in this purpose so strongly that he himself gave the Christmas Lectures every year for three and a half decades. Your question today:
What is the name of the pioneer of electricity and magnetism who delivered multiple Christmas Lectures, including one on why a candle burns?  

Do you have an answer to submit? See the notes below for details on how to participate in my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia (and maybe win a gift card)!


Contest Notes:

Remember, my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 20



Our Santa Claus has more in common with shamanistic characters of legend than the church's pious St. Nicholas. Your question today:
What is one similarity between Santa and the night visitors of our older traditions? (Bonus Question: What was Nicholas' position in the church?)


Are you playing along for a gift card? See the notes below for details on my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia!


Contest Notes:

Remember, my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Friday 80s Flashback for December 20, 2013


[Winter Holidays Week 3, Redux II] -- Well, Christmas Eve is just a week away, I am out of town for the holidays, and I'm running a contest called 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia. You know what that means, right? Repeat! Yep, I am plucking a post from the archives. Hey, just like some of you out there, I'm behind on cards, shopping, and food prep for the holidays. Well, actually, the shopping is done because we had to do that before our flight Thursday morning. Still, I'm taking advantage of my previous work. And who knows, there may be one or three new 80s-philes who weren't following my weekly posts before this year. Of course, even those who have been along for the ride since the beginning can't necessarily recall what sonic stocking stuffers I offered up a year or so ago, right? (At least not without Googling it.) So, for some 80s style holiday music, read and hear more after the break.

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Updated Leaderboard!



In just a few days, the leader board has drastically changed. So much so that we have a new name atop the leader board for the 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia! Now, this contest is far from over,  so if you want to take a shot at the gift cards that will go to the top three scorers, you'd best get to reading the questions and submitting your answers. Although the first few posts (starting here) invite you to leave your answers in the comments section. However, it might be best to follow the directions posted in later posts and send me a message. Refer to the most recent trivia post for details.

As of today, the top three players are:
  1. Stephen B
  2. Purehero
  3. HeidiGolightly

Thank you for playing! New question will go live at 6:00am Eastern time! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 19



The Christmas tree, as we know it, is a 17th-century German invention. However, the use of a tree for decoration at this time of year has more ancient origins. Still, a decorated tree has become part and parcel of celebrating Christmas. As Christianity adopted the tree for its festival, its trappings were adapted to the newer religion. Many interpreters of Symbology believe that the number of Christmas tree ornaments was originally twelve. Your question for the 19th Day of Winter Holiday Trivia:
What is the esoteric meaning of these 12 ornaments used to decorate a Christmas tree?

See the notes below if you want to participate in my little contest and try to wind a gift card!


Contest Notes:

Remember, my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 18


As I've mentioned previously, this time of year is home to many festivals and religious observances. This very week, in fact, marked the start of an ancient Roman winter festival. It was a major holiday and it was celebrated with drinking, gift-giving, bonfires, candles, and a bit of role-reversal (and I'm not exactly talking about roleplaying). And, although I used the past tense in my brief description of the holiday, there are folks who yet persist in its observance. Your question for this, the 18th day of my 25 Days of Winter Holiday is:
What is the name of the Roman solstice festival that began this week, runs three to seven days in length, and is observed with many of the traditions now associated with Christmas (gifts, feasting, etc.).   
Bonus Question: What are the colors of this holiday? 

I know I usually close with a musical selection, but I'm in a rush today. Besides, most of the selections I've been posting with my trivia questions come from posts I wrote last year during my 25 Days of Holiday Music, so you can always visit the archives for more tunes.

See you tomorrow!



Contest Notes:

Remember, my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 17




17 Days into Winter Holiday Trivia and counting (up to Day 25)! Yesterday, there was a slight shift in the leader board for this contest (see notes below), but it's still anyone's game. So, read up and participate!

Candles have long been a part of observing and celebrating Christmas. They are also used in other festivals of light that occur at this time of year, such as Hanukkah (which predates Christianity and Christmas) and Kwanzaa (a more modern Winter festival). There is something common among the traditions that find a home in the last month of the year: The lighting of candles to dispel darkness. Granted, that is the general purpose of a candle. But it takes on a greater significance at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. Your question today:
What is the European, pre-Christian symbolism associated with the use of candles at this time of year? (Be specific!)

Whatever you celebrate during this season I call Chrismahanukwanzakyule, I hope you enjoy the beautiful and poignant "One Small Candle" by Jessica Radcliffe, Lisa Ekström and Martin Simpson. It can be found on the 2001 album, Beautiful Darkness, which is a moving musical meditation on the Solstice.

 

Contest Notes:

Remember, my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 16



It's day 16 in my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia. That means, counting today, there are only ten days left! Your question today:
J.W. Parkinson did something in 1841 that forever changed Christmas, at least in the retail world. What did he do, and where did he do it?

For your musical number today, we have Neon Trees' Christmas single, "Wish List," which was released in November 2010. This tune is, appropriately enough, a love song, and a peppy little number at that. Despite the upbeat tempo, however, it is clear to me that this song is about the longing for someone who is not close by, and who may not be close anytime soon. Hence, he sings "Wish as I may, wish as I might | Grant me this one small wish | On Christmas night." If you like your holiday music with a little pop rock zip, you should add this number to your rotation.





Contest Notes:

Remember, 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Sunday, December 15, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: The Leaderboard!



We're fifteen days into my holiday feature, the 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia, so I figure I should post the results thus far. I mean, there are gift cards that will go to the top three scorers (refer to the most recent trivia post for details). If you're playing along, I figure you might want to know if you're in the running or if you have to step up your game.

As of today, the top three players are:

  1. Purehero
  2. TechieGirl
  3. Steve J.
Thank you for playing. With 10 days left, it's still anyone's game! 

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 15



Cakes and sweets of all kinds have been used to mark seasonal observances long before Christmas was a holiday. By the 1500s, however, Christmas cookies had pretty much become entrenched as tradition all across Europe. I would dare say that cookies make up most of my earliest and most-cherished memories of this time of year. And, as you might have guessed from yesterday's question, we're kind of into the Christmas Cookie thing. So, let's do another cookie related question for today's trivia:
What is considered to be the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas?

Make certain you submit your answer to as many of my trivia questions as you can. Why? I'll be posting the leaderboard this weekend! (And once I post official answers to earlier questions, you can no longer get credit for them; see the contest notes below).

Because today's question was about cookies, and it is traditional (in some families) to leave cookies out for Santa, I'm posting "(Let's Give) A Christmas Present to Santa Claus" as your musical selection. Recorded in the early 50s, it was likely released as a single during that time (or at least played on the radio), but it did not appear on an album until 1997's Songs from White Christmas (& Other Yuletide Favorites). That album collected 12 Clooney Christmas classics, all recorded between 1951 and 1956.



Contest Notes:

Remember, 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 14



We're in the early stage of today's Winter Storm Warning, so it's a good time for some trivia. While we're shut up at home, my wife is using the time to perform a marathon session of Christmas Cookie baking. And that is what inspired the question for Day 14. And it's another fill-in-the-blank type of question:
When using a cookie press to make Scandinavian spritz cookies, it's important to be sure that the dough is ______?

Make certain you submit your answer to as many of my trivia questions as you can. Why? I'll be posting the leaderboard this weekend! (And once I post official answers to earlier questions, you can no longer get credit for them; see the contest notes below).

The music entertainment while you ponder your answer is "Christmas Cookies" by George Strait. It can be found on A Country Christmas (1999) and A Country Superstar Christmas III (2000).




Contest Notes:

Remember, 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Friday, December 13, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 13



Many of our Christmas traditions are much older than Christianity, and gift-giving is no different. The concept of giving gifts in memory of "God's great Gift to mankind" seems to be lost amidst the Honda and Jared commercials (and we won't even get into the marketing behind toys). However, the "great Gift" was a mere papering over of a practice with an older, magical purpose. Your question today:
What was the pre-Christian purpose behind gift-giving around the end of the year?

Aztec Camera's "Walk Out to Winter" has never been released as a Christmas single, and it hasn't appeared on any holiday albums, but there is no way you can prove to me that it isn't a holiday tune. Give a listen, and you'll agree that this young man is singing about the hope of this season, a hope that transcends any one religion's viewpoint (or specific practice).



Contest Notes:

Remember, 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Friday 80s Flashback for December 13, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll Christmas Guitar from the Embroidery Library (emblibrary.com)


[Rockin' the Winter Holidays] -- I missed posting a Flashback last week. I was a bit busy between work and my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia. I'm back this week, though, and I'm serving up a trio of hard hitting, but not necessarily jolly, 80s Christmas tunes. And, now that we've passed the halfway mark to Christmas, it's not a moment too soon for this holiday treat. Now, these songs won't necessarily be everyone's cup of cheer, but they will certainly keep you warm between snow squalls. So, if you're ready to enjoy a few audio stocking stuffers, you can read and hear more after the break. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 12



We're halfway to Christmas Eve, so that means we're just about halfway through my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia. So without preamble, I'm diving right into the trivia question for Day 12 (it's a fill-in-the-blank question; same word or phrase for both blanks):
One-quarter of the globe, or 48 million square miles, is ________ covered at some time during the year. Worldwide, about one-third of the water used for irrigation comes from _______.   (Note: These values were accurate circa 1998 and I have not done any digging to update them; they may have shifted). 

While looking for a song to accompany today's trivia, I found myself gravitating toward tunes that might have provided too strong a hint to the answer. Then, I found this one in my archives. "Christmas is a Friend of Mine," was released in 1981 by Dutch singer-songwriter Fay Lovsky. It was a minor top 40 hit in the Netherlands where it peaked at #37 in January of 1982. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the trivia theme or the current question. It is simply an overlooked gem of the beloved 80s.




Contest Notes:

Remember, 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 11



[See the Contest Notes at the end of this post if you want to compete for a gift card!]

I don't know if it can be considered a miracle that I've made 11 consecutive posts in my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia, but that is as good a theme as any for today's question. The holiday season is a time for miracles, or so the entertainment industry would have us believe. Consider, if you will, the sheer number of movies in which the climax hinges on the occurrence of a miracle, whether it be provided by divine means (It's a Wonderful Life), Santa (Miracle on 34th Street), or some other entity/event (Irving Berlin's White Christmas or, perhaps, Ernest Saves Christmas). I mean, this predilection for miracle stories goes back to a certain miraculous birth as well as Mr. Dickens' story of spectral visitations.

But not all holiday miracles occur on the life event level. Some are seemingly magical transformations of, say, common everyday items. So, with that in mind, today's question:

Which one of Jesus' early miracles is also supposed to be a fortunate supernatural effect attributed to Christmas Eve? 


Today's video has nothing to do with the trivia question, but I do believe this tune completely captures the tone and spirit of this time of year (even somewhat tackling the idea of seasonal miracles). This song is "The Atheist's Christmas Carol" from Vienna Teng's second album, Warm Strangers (2004). This tune is not an anti-religious screed. Rather, it is a beautiful summation of the pure potentiality of each and every holiday that claims the Winter Solstice as its time of observance. The video shows Vienna performing the song live at THE LIVING ROOM in NYC. (Note: This was the offering for Day 3 of my 25 Days of Holiday Music last year. Check that post for song lyrics).




Contest Notes:

Remember, 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 10



Are you ready for Day 10 in 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia? Today's question is on the musical side of things. "Silent Night" (or "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht") was written by Franz Gruber on Christmas Eve in 1818. Gruber was a school teacher as well as the organist and church caretaker in the village of Arnsdorf. Your question today: On what instrument did Gruber compose the melody for "Silent Night! Holy Night"?

Bonus Question: Where was "Silent Night, Holy Night" first performed?

This isn't the first performance, but it is one of the earliest recordings of the song:



Contest Notes:

Remember, 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia is an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I'll start posting answers on Wednesday, but will likely only go through the first week of trivia. So you still have time to go back through the posted questions and rack up some points.

Points? Yes! The three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card!

If you want to participate, simply message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Monday, December 09, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 9 (and contest announcement!)




Before we get to today's trivia question, I have an important announcement: I've decided to make my 25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia an actual contest. If you want to participate, all you have to do is send me your answer to each question I've posted (and for which I have not yet posted the answer). I won't post answers for days one through today until tomorrow or Wednesday. So you still have time to go back to the first question and rack up some points.

Points? What do I mean by "points"? Well, I've decided that to make this an actual contest, I need to award points and give out prizes. So, the three folks who rack up the most points in my trivia game will receive a gift card (I'm thinking ... Amazon, Starbucks, and ... something else).  I'll keep track of participants and their points via a spreadsheet on Google Drive. Not sure whether I'll post it publicly or not. I'm open to suggestions.

So, with that announcement, on to today's question!

Time to rack up frequent flyer points with the latest installment of trivia. Every Christmas, families and churches use poinsettias for decoration. Your question today: From where does this flowering plant hail?

Bonus question #1: Who is this flower named after?

Bonus question #2: What color are a poinsettia's flowers?


Remember, if you want to participate and complete in this trivia extravaganza, message me your answers. Don't post in the comments unless you don't mind sharing your work. (Just DM me on Twitter, private message me on FB, or use the contact info on this blog to email me).

Good luck folks!

In honor of yesterday's snow storm, I'll sign off with Sonic Tol-Fa's "Snō" from their 2002 release, Sugaure.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 8

Number 8 Tile (via pewabicstore.org)

Christians around the world will light another candle on an Advent wreath today. This simple structure is used to mark progress on the way to Christmas. While it once sported 24 candles, the Advent wreath has long since slimmed down to a streamlined version with four candles for the Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve (and often a fifth, central candle for Christmas Day).

Advent Wreath with 24 Candles

Advent Wreath with Five Candles


While there is ample evidence for a pre-Christian forerunner of the Advent wreath, the precise means by which that wreathed timekeeper was adapted by the church is less certain. However, I think there is some agreement as to where the tradition started. So, your question today: In what country did the Advent wreath originate?


Saturday, December 07, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 7



Closing out our first week of Winter Holiday Trivia with a special question for Day 7.

The Welsh name for December is Rhagfyr, while the Gaelic name is An Mios marbh.
What do these names mean in English?

Friday, December 06, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 6



Time to close out our first week of Winter Holiday Trivia! How about something humorous to lead us into the weekend?

MADtv did a parody of a certain, illuminating reindeer. Your question today: What was the parody called, and what was the cinematic source of the parody?


Thursday, December 05, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 5



On the fifth day of December, my internet friend gave to me: another Winter Holiday Trivia question!

Introduced in the 16th century, this calendar resulted in the loss of 11 days in the calendar year and moved Christmas to December 25 (well, sort of ... Christmas had already been set as December 25 as early as the fourth century).

What is the name of this calendar? Feel free to submit your answer in the comments!



Note: This video has nothing to do with today's trivia question.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 4



Pucker up for another day of Winter Holiday Trivia!

Everyone knows that you're supposed to kiss the person standing under the mistletoe. Your question today: What are you supposed to do after kissing? Feel free to submit your answer in the comments! (And, please, do keep it clean!)




FYI: In 2007, singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat released a wonderfully downbeat tune called "Mistletoe" that she wrote with her friend Stacy Blue. Released as a digital download on iTunes, "Mistletoe" was, apparently, the most downloaded holiday song of 2007.



Tuesday, December 03, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 3


Day 3 on the Winter Holiday Trivia train.

With Thanksgiving a recent memory and December in full swing, many folks have put up a Christmas tree (or a Yule tree, or a Hanukkah bush, or a Solstice shrub, und so weiter und so fort). Of course, those bits of greenery will be decorated as well. We'll deal with the pine greens themselves in an upcoming trivia post. Today I want to focus on the decorations, particularly those of the glass ornamentation persuasion that many people are so fond of.

Your question today: In what country were glass Christmas ornaments first manufactured? (Bonus points if you can point to who started it and in what year).  Feel free to submit your answer in the comments!



Monday, December 02, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 2


Are you ready for more Winter Holiday Trivia?

The Dickensesque film, It's a Wonderful Life, had its premier at New York's Globe Theatre on December 20, 1946. It later went into general release on January 7, 1947. Although it opened to pretty mixed reviews, the film has gone on to be a holiday classic.

Your question today: What other Christmas film did It's a Wonderful Life, finish ahead of in terms of 1947 box office revenues? Feel free to submit your answer in the comments!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

25 Days of Winter Holiday Trivia: Day 1


Last year, in addition to my weekly Friday 80s Flashback posts, I shared one holiday song per day from December 1 through December 25 (in 2012's 25 Days of Holiday Music). This year, for a change of pace, I will be sharing one trivia per day from now through December 25.

As it took me some time to decide on the holiday theme, I'm kicking off this new feature rather late on December 1. So we'll start with a relatively simple question.

Vince Guaraldi Trio's "Linus and Lucy" had its television debut on the very first animated Peanuts special: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). The song has since been a part of just about every Peanuts television show (and a whole host of other Peanuts-related media appearances). However, the tune was not composed for A Charlie Brown Christmas.

So, what was the project for which Vince Guaraldi originally wrote and recorded "Linus and Lucy"? Feel free to submit your answer in the comments!

  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday 80s Flashback for November 29, 2013


[Food, Family, and More Food (Redux)] -- Welcome to a very special Black Friday edition of the Friday 80s Flashback. Today, I am re-posting the 11/25/11 edition of the Flashback. Why am I reusing a previous Flashback? Why, so I can participate in Black Friday, of course! However, in my case, participation pretty much means sitting on the couch in my parents' living room while I watch college football and catch up on my reading. Now, I did plan to post a set of songs that snarked on today's focus on over-consumerism. Instead, I'll dwell on the holiday that just passed ... right after I offer up this meme GIF:



So, back to today's recycled playlist. Thanksgiving is a time to gather with loved ones for a communal meal, reflect on ones blessings, share our largesse, and then lapse into a food coma. Now, there aren't too many Thanksgiving-specific tunes from the 80s, so I had to be a little creative for this post and focus on the theme of Food and Family (and, of course, more food). If you have recovered from your food coma and you need a break from the insanity of Black Friday, then check out this week's selections after the break.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday 80s Flashback for November 22, 2013

Cover for album Power by Kansas (via Wikipedia).

[A State of 80s Prog Rock] -- In the mid to late 70s, nothing noteworthy seems to have happened in the state of Kansas (at least not according to Wikipedia). However, the band called Kansas did great things for the state of prog rock in particular and album-oriented rock in general. From 1974 through 1980, the band released seven studio albums, one live album, and 14 singles. The very first 45 I purchased with my own money was "Carry On Wayward Son" from Kansas' 1976 release, Leftoverture, and I still have it in my collection. Each Kansas album released in this period achieved least gold status, with two of them going quadruple platinum. Their sound was big and (according to one critic) overdone. But fans ate up Kansas' style of blending elements of boogie, classical music riffs, and straight-ahead rock into long and (sometimes) overly complicated songs featuring that oh-so-rock 'n roll instrument, the violin. Kansas stalled a bit in the 80s, releasing two albums, disbanding, and then reviving for a third record (albeit with only three original members and no violin). With the exception of the 1982 release, Vinyl Confessions, there is very little Kansas music in the 80s that sounds like, well, the Kansas that had sparked a legion of loyal fans known as Wheatheads. Kansas is still touring these days, and I regret that I never got to see them with my father whom I credit for my love of their music. Kansas is in the midst of a 40th anniversary fan-appreciation tour. Sadly, however, violinist Robby Steinhardt is unable to participate due to suffering a heart attack in August. Still, Kansas at 40 is closer to the Kansas of the 70s that of their 80s incarnations. How far did they stray from such classics as "Point of Know Return" and "Dust in the Wind"? Read and hear more after the break.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Alan Moore: Magic and the Job of the Artist

Alan Moore on art (it's magic!) and artists (they're shamans!):

There is some confusion as to what magic actually is. I think this can be cleared up if you just look at the very earliest descriptions of magic. Magic in its earliest form is often referred to as “the art”.  I believe this is completely literal.  I believe that magic is art and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form is literally magic.  Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness.  The very language about magic seems to be talking as much about writing or art as it is about supernatural events.  A grimmoir for example, the book of spells is simply a fancy way of saying grammar.  Indeed, to cast a spell, is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness.   And I believe that this is why an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world that you are likely to see to a Shaman. 
"I believe that all culture must have arisen from cult.  Originally, all of the faucets of our culture, whether they be in the arts or sciences were the province of the Shaman.  The fact that in present times, this magical power has degenerated to the level of cheap entertainment and manipulation, is, I think a tragedy.  At the moment the people who are using Shamanism and magic to shape our culture are advertisers.   Rather than try to wake people up, their Shamanism is used as an opiate to tranquilize people, to make people more manipulable.  Their magic box of television, and by their magic words, their jingles can cause everyone in the country to be thinking the same words and have the same banal thoughts all at exactly the same moment.  
"In all of magic there is an incredibly large linguistic component.  The Bardic tradition of magic would place a bard as being much higher and more fearsome than a magician.  A magician might curse you.  That might make your hands lay funny or you might have a child born with a club foot.  If a Bard were to place not a curse upon you, but a satire, then that could destroy you.  If it was a clever satire, it might not just destroy you in the eyes of your associates; it would destroy you in the eyes of your family.  It would destroy you in your own eyes.  And if it was a finely worded and clever satire that might survive and be remembered for decades, even centuries.  Then years after you were dead people still might be reading it and laughing at you and your wretchedness and your absurdity.
"Writers and people who had command of words were respected and feared as people who manipulated magic.  In latter times I think that artists and writers have allowed themselves to be sold down the river.  They have accepted the prevailing belief that art and writing are merely forms of entertainment.  They’re not seen as transformative forces that can change a human being; that can change a society.  They are seen as simple entertainment; things with which we can fill 20 minutes, half an hour, while we’re waiting to die.  It’s not the job of the artist to give the audience what the audience wants.  If the audience knew what they needed, then they wouldn’t be the audience.  They would be the artists.  It is the job of artists to give the audience what they need."

For more from the mind of Moore, check out Alan Moore: Storyteller (2013, Rizzoli Universe Promotional Books, ISBN 0789327112) by Millidge Gary Spencer (Author) , Michael Moorcock (Foreword)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday 80s Flashback for November 15, 2013



[Joe Jackson] -- Last week I provided a sneak peak into this week's Flashback by posting Joe Jackson's video for "Sunday Papers." Now, that song isn't part of this week's lineup, so you'll still get three tunes. No repeats this week. Anyway, Joe Jackson is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist (piano, keyboards, organ, saxophone, harmonica, melodica, synthesizer, accordion, vibraphone, etc.) who has a recording career that spans from 1979 to the present. His more recent material focuses on pop/jazz/classical hybrids (check out his tribute to Duke Ellington). These recordings earn critical acclaim, but they have not reached the commercial success of his past efforts. His musical heyday was really from 1979 through 1991, during which he earned five Grammy Award nominations. I always liked him because of his voice and how he blended pop rock and New Wave (with a few jazzy trappings). Jackson's voice -- clear and distinctive with almost a jazzman's intonation -- could run the gamut from wispy to pleading to angry, but it never broke. It is difficult to pick just three tunes from the sixteen singles he released in the 80s. However, if you want to step out and learn what made this week's cut, you can read and hear more after the break.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Veterans

For Veterans Day 2013, I am posting a photo collage I call My Veterans:

Clockwise from top: Paternal Grandfather,
Maternal Grandfather, and Father
My paternal and maternal grandfathers served during WWII (Navy and Army respectively). My father was in the Coast Guard during the latter half of the 60s. All three men returned home after their respective tours of duty. I am indebted to all veterans of the US Armed Services, a debt I cannot repay, but I am particularly impacted by the lives of these three men. 

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Friday 80s Flashback for November 8, 2013 (on a Saturday)



[Sneak Peak] -- I spent most of the past week prepping for a tech rehearsal and an all-day class. The rehearsal took up the entirety of my Friday, and the class was all of Saturday. Hence, I did not have time to write a proper Flashback post for you. I will, however, provide a sneak peak at next week's Friday 80s Flashback ... 

Flashback Video"Whatever moves beyond these walls | She'll know the facts when Sunday comes along."




Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

And if you are on Twitter, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout.

I'll see you in seven!

Friday, November 01, 2013

Friday 80s Flashback for November 1, 2013

Scary Jack O' Lantern (via threadrock.com)

[Halloween 2013] -- So, last night was Halloween. That means it's time for my annual Halloween edition of the Friday 80s Flashback. Well, I'm claiming that three years in a row counts as annual: 20102011, and 2012 (although that last one was a repeat of the 2010 entry). Anyway, Previous entries tended to showcase songs that were stealthily Halloweenish (with a few over-the-top, obvious examples). This week, I make no claim as to the Halloween pedigree of these songs. However,  each one does have something frightening or sinister about it. Wondering what treats I have for you tricksters? Read and hear more after the break!

Chapel of Bones

For your post-Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day pleasure, here is a chapel constructed out of thousands of human bones...

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/skull-chapel-kaplica-czaszek-poland-229781781.html


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Remembering Simon the Cat, 10 Years Later

Ten years ago today, our first cat, Simon, passed away. Today I present the photo collage I posted in 2004 to mark the one year anniversary of his untimely death.

 


Thank you, Simon, for 7+ wonderful years: 4/28/96 - 10/29/03

We love you and miss you

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday 80s Flashback for October 25, 2013

Cover Art by Brad from Running to Stand Still


[Joshua Tree Tour] -- I recently subscribed to Concert Vault,"The World’s Greatest Collection of Concert Recordings." I don't know if it's really the greatest, but it certainly is very extensive. From Count Basie and His Orchestra at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1959 to We Were Promised Jetpacks at Outdoor Stage On Sixth in 2012 (and a whole slew of recordings from the archives of Bill Graham Presents), Concert Vault's depth and breadth of recordings is impressive. Now, a subscription is required to download playlists (which are around $5 each), but you do not need a membership to stream the playlists. And, yes, they do have a decent collection of 80s artists. This is great resource for me because I wasn't able to see many concerts when I was younger (distance from venues and lack of money colluded to prevent my attendance). Case in point: U2. I loved this band but I never got to see them live until the 360 Tour. Thanks to Concert Vault, I can now virtually attend a seminal performance by U2: a live show at Madison Square Garden during The Joshua Tree tour! You can read and hear more about this show after the break.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Christianity commandeered humanistic values

Professor Jim Al-Khalili: Christianity hijacked human values (via Raw Story )
Professor Jim Al-Khalili, a theoretical physicist and science broadcaster, said Monday at The Cambridge Union Society that Christianity had commandeered humanistic values. In his presentation, Al-Khalili said he believed in the Golden Rule: One should…